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Sharepoint User Group UK – Manchester March 9th 2010

This session, hosted at the City Inn by NetMonkeys and arranged by Mark Stokes featured two speakers – Spencer Harbar and Jamie MacAllistar.
The first session by Spencer was about Information Architecture in Sharepoint. He describes Information Architecture (or IA) as the organisation of information and information systems in a manner which provides best accessibility and usability to the information, even if inherently.
The practices of setting up an information architecture can involve the development of a taxonomy and deciding on which metadata models to use. It can lead to the development of navigation of an information system, but the development of navigation does not directly attribute to Information Architecture (it’s not the sole outcome).
The “discipline” of IA is said by Spencer to be immature. It’s an art (as opposed to a taxonomy which is a scientific structure). There is no set way which in which to build an information architecture because every requirement and project is unique.
He then went onto describe the features in Sharepoint which are available to develop Information Architecture. These are Logical Architecture Objects (like Sites), Content Types and Columns, Search and Governance. The Logical Architecture must be designed first, which includes the site objects, as this steers the development of the rest of the system. It’s critical to do this but not to spend too much time trying to get it right, as Spencer insisted that no system works right first time. It is impossible to identify how Sharepoint will pan out.
It is always more cost-efficient in the long run to implement then revise later with aims to find out what works and what doesn’t (in terms of what works for the users).
Spencer then talked about metadata and content types, and their limitations within Sharepoint 2007. These limitations are down to Governance in that they are restricted to a single Site Collection.
He wrapped up with a discussion and demonstration of Managed Metadata in Sharepoint 2010. This is an exciting feature which allows Information Architects and also departmental heads to develop a taxonomy of keywords which can be managed (updated, deleted, merged, synonyms, etc) by Power Users (not just system administrators). These keywords can then be used anywhere within the Sharepoint environment, and any user can tag information how they see fit and what’s relevant. The Managed Keywords feature brings up suggestions as soon as you start typing in keywords, and allows users to create new keywords too.
The second session was about producing multi-language Sharepoint sites using a feature in MOSS 2007 called Variations. These can be used to deliver content not only in different languages but also modify the content to suit different devices’ capabilities. This was an interesting look at some of the MOSS features unavailable in WSS.
Overall the sessions proved to be extremely valuable as designing a well-designed Information Architecture provides the company with the best value from its content, rather than the burden of information overflow. It’s important to note that it never works first time and that re-evaluation is always essential.
You can download the slide deck from Spencer’s talk at:
And you can also follow him on twitter @harbars

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